Home schooling includes travel, faith, service
Vicki Del Boccio sits Oct. 16 with Olivia and Mario on the couch they do most of their studies from. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:01AM
PARK RIDGE — When the Del Boccio family goes abroad, they don’t just vacation.
Each excursion away from their Park Ridge home is considered an educational field trip for Olivia, 17, and Mario, 16. “School” has taken the siblings to places like Jerusalem, Paris and — most recently — Patagonia, the southernmost point of South America.
Vicki Del Boccio appreciates the opportunity for her children to travel and learn wherever they go. She and her husband, Dan, made the decision a decade ago to be involved in their education as much as possible. Vicki – a former teacher, nurse and librarian – turned her home into a classroom. The two teens have been home-schooled since second grade.
Vicki said there are several benefits to parents educating their kids. For starters, “the home environment is really the safest,” she said, because of a lack of bullying and violence.
While schoolteachers grapple with large class size, home-schooled students receive personalized attention.
“I know their weaknesses and strengths,” Vicki said.
The Christian family’s biggest concern is educating in a manner that embraces their Bible-based faith, Vicki said.
“Many times (public school) classes might be slanted away from how we want to raise our children,” she said.
Vicki said limited regulation makes Illinois one of the “easiest states” in which to home educate.
Parents determine what and when to teach, and they are free to decide when a high school-age student has met the requirements for a diploma. Though students must receive age-appropriate instruction in six specific disciplines, the state doesn’t dictate the course details.
“We are free to do curriculum,” said Vicki, whose instruction includes lessons in character building, discipline, responsibility, community service and survival skills.
The children follow classical education, she explained, or an “orderly way of learning” explored through a historical lens. When Olivia and Mario took a state achievement exam to determine whether they were up to par with incoming high school freshmen, they tested at a level equivalent to those in the first year of college.
For teens, home schooling is less direct instruction and more independent learning. On a typical “school day,” Mario said he wakes by 6:30 a.m. to finish his chores before a 9:30 a.m. check-in with mom. After an hour of reading together and engaging in critical thinking discussions, the siblings split.
When he’s not busy reading at the desk in his room, Mario learns foreign languages on his computer and watches educational DVDs. Though their schedule is flexible, the siblings are accountable for their work.
“My mom sets a deadline whether I like it or not,” Mario said. “Essays have to be turned in. You never escape from that.”
Despite missing experiences like school sports teams, Mario doesn’t feel socially isolated. He runs his own landscaping business, and volunteering keeps the siblings connected to their community.
Last year, Mario and Vicki received the Cook County Sheriff’s Youth Service Medal of Honor for serving in the rehab and dietary departments at Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago.